Sharing your knowledge with the world is easy if you know how to best present it. Clear communication does not always fall hand-in-hand with a cornucopia of knowledge. Luckily, there are some simple ways to ensure student engagement.
- Consider your audience.
- Set clear goals.
- Avoid lecturing.
- Break information down.
- Make it relatable.
- Request feedback.
Mastering the basics will ensure attractive and engaging content creation.
Consider Your Audience
Content should be relevant to the consumer. A user with looking for a entry-level course will run from industry jargon. Advanced students expect no fluff and are comfortable with complex details. To provide the most value analyze and understand the audience’s requirements. While planning your course find answers to questions such as
- What level of expertise do students possess?
- What are the expected outcomes of this course?
- Do any learners have special needs?
- How do they best engage with content?
- What is the best way to help them retain their knew skills?
Industry research is a good place to start, but actual audience research is crucial. Gathering feedback from the intended audience helps understand their actual needs.
Set Clear Goals
What will students be able to do after they complete this course? Defining a clear goal for the course is important. Focusing on the end-goal ensures that all content included in the e-learning experience is relevant to the topic at hand. If something doesn’t directly relate to the completion of the main learning objective it should not be in the course; perhaps a new course covering that topic should also be created.
Setting SMART goals and assessing progress towards them improves learner engagement. Having section objectives clearly laid out and confirming the knowledge after student practice reinforces forward momentum. Having a few small wins (completed sections) before getting stuck on a harder concept can be the difference between retaining interest. Providing detailed feedback when incorrect answers are submitted will maintain motivation to keep learning and trying to grasp the content.
Finding a book or a presentation on a topic is relatively simple with the reach of the internet. Finding content that actually stimulates understanding of the concepts, not simple regurgitation, is difficult. A true e-learning course needs to provide more than just text explanations of concepts. Some ways to create engaging content are
- Meaningful graphics
- Real-life examples
- Hands on exercises
- Brief presentations
Good courses should inform, challenge, and test the student. Use the active voice while writing to keep the reader focused; the typical doer-action-receiver format makes reading easier. Provide the time and content to practice new concepts after they are introduced before moving forward with new information.
Break Information Down
Food is offered in bite-sized pieces for easy consumption, e-learning should be as well. Even long courses can seem feasible if broken down the right way. Most online content isn’t read, it’s scanned. Formatting your content with the following tips simplifies the scanning process, ensuring relevant information isn’t missed.
- Bulleted lists break up long paragraphs.
- Numbered lists are great for step-by-step processes
- Subheadings provide quick navigation
- Bold font highlights keywords
- Keep your paragraphs to 3-5 sentences, and sentences should 75% of the time be shorter than 20 words long
- Graphics and videos provide alternate learning styles
If you feel like you just can’t simplify a concept, you’re not thinking about it in the right way. Everything can be re-written or re-created to be more concise. Try changing your perspective if you’re having a hard time breaking up your content.
Make it Relatable
Learning occurs best when content is relevant to the user. Courseware needs compelling characters, real-life situations, and an overall sense of familiarity to truly stick. That being said, the story needs to be simple. Only include details relevant to the narrative to make it easier to digest. Creating characters that portray characteristics of the target audience gives the learners something to relate to.
Real-life experiences work as well as fabricated stories to get points across. Providing examples of on-the-job situations for problem solving builds confidence for real-life application of new knowledge. People share real-life experiences, and will be glad they know “it’s happened to someone else”. Better yet – hope that students learn from your mistakes.
Subject matter experts are just that for one reason – they know the subject inside and out. What is forgotten is that often a lot of things that are mentally automated after years of “just doing them” rarely get communicated effectively to others. The main components of a process, or skill, can be explained by them thoroughly. All of the specific details relating to the situation are no-brainers – but the student needs to know which question to ask.
Having others review your courseware and provide feedback is a chance to really understand how your content is perceived. Finding reviewers that are in the demographic of the intended audience is best, but any two heads is better than one. Some simple things may have been omitted for being too “obvious”, others may just not be worded clearly. With feedback, any doubt of clarity and effectiveness of content can be erased.